Tuesday June 25, 2019

CNS photo/Joshua Roberts, Reuters, and Paul Haring

A Sudden Split…

Steve Bannon and Cardinal Raymond Burke had met occasionally in recent years. They had seemed to be collaborating, especially with regard to setting up an Academy in Italy inside a 1,000-year-old monastery in Trisulti, near Frosinone, under the direction of the Dignitatis Humanae Institute, founded by British Catholic political activist Benjamin Harnwell, and supported by Steve Bannon.

But today Cardinal Burke issued a surprisingly tough statement (full text below) announcing he was severing immediately his relationship with the Institute (of which he was the honorary chairman). Why this sudden, dramatic decision?

Evidently, because Bannon had indicated earlier today (in a LifeSiteNews press report that has now disappeared from the web) that Bannon might make a film about… homosexuality on the Vatican… in collaboration with the openly homosexual French author Frederic Martel.

Bannon, in the now missing report, reportedly said he had met with Martel to purchase the rights to a screen version of the book.

Martel is the author of a controversial book, In the Closet of the Vatican, which was published in February of this year to much fanfare, in many languages simultaneously. (So there was clearly considerable money and careful strategic planning behind the project of this book.)

In the book, Martel (who tells us that he resided for days at a time in the Domus Santa Marta over the past few years — the residence of Pope Francis) claims that he spoke with dozens of homosexual prelates who work for the Holy See, and he concluded that the great majority of the officials of the Holy See — even those who present themselves as very conservative — are homosexuals.

By coincidence, I spoke with Bannon a few days ago on the telephone. In that conversation, he asked me my opinion of the Martel book. I told him I thought it was unreliable, rushed, undocumented. I said that, for this reason, it seemed to me part of some larger strategy, for a purpose I did not fully understand, to bring pressure to bear on the Holy See.

Now, interestingly, earlier today I received an email from LifeSiteNews, which often sends out a notice of a new article available on the website. The email was as follows, and included the link at the end:

Your Eminences, Your Excellencies, Dear Reverend Fathers, Dear Colleagues, 

Laudetur Jesus Christus! [“Praised be Jesus Christ!”]

Please see here a report on the fact that Steve Bannon, the former top aide of President Trump, has recently met with Dr. Frederic Martel in order to discuss the possibility of making a film based on Martel’s book on the homosexual presence in the Vatican. Bannon shared Martel’s diagnosis: “for the sake of the survival of the Church, the Church should consider heterosexual marriage for priests.”

Warm greetings in Christ,

Maike Hickson


And I clicked on the link in the email and it brought me to the article, and I read the article.

So the article was there.

And it did report on a meeting between Martel and Bannon to discuss… making a film about the book.

But, as you will see if you click on the link, the article is no longer there(!). It has been taken down.

I have written to LifeSiteNews to ask why it has been taken down, and have received no answer. But it seems that it may have been taken down at… Cardinal Burke’s request.

Why? Because, in his statement, entitled Statement from Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke on LifeSiteNews’ “Steve Bannon Hints at Making Film Exposing Homosexuality in Vatican” and Resignation from Dignitatis Humanae Institute, Burke starts out by referring to the LifeSiteNews article, making clear that the article was the spur to his decision.

Burke writes (and what follows is the entire statement, which is also given below in a photograph of the statement):

“I have been made aware of a June 24th LifeSiteNews online article — now removed — entitled “Steve Bannon hints at making film exposing homosexuality in Vatican,” in which the insinuation is made that somehow, through my association with Mr. Benjamin Harnwell of the Dignitatis Humanae Institute, I was involved in a meeting between Mr. Bannon and Mr. Frederic Martel, author of the book, In the Closet of the Vatican, to promote a film version of Mr. Martel’s book. LifeSiteNews made no contact with me to verify my possible involvement. Given the overall content of the article and given several statements made by Mr. Bannon in the article, I must make the following clear:

“I do not, in any way, agree with Mr. Bannon’s assessment of the book in question. Furthermore, I am not at all of the mind that the book should be made into a film. I disagree completely with a number of Mr. Bannon’s statements regarding the doctrine and discipline of the Roman Catholic Church [note: Burke here is referring to statements about priestly celibacy]. Above all, I find objectionable his statement calling into question the Church’s discipline of perpetual continence for the clergy, in accord with the example and desire of Christ, Head and Shepherd of the Church.”

Burke continued:

“I have never worked with Mr. Bannon in his organization and am not presently doing so. I have met with him on occasion to discuss Catholic social teaching regarding certain political questions, but I have no part in his organization. In meeting with him, as in meeting with other political leaders, I have tried to fulfill my mission as a priest to teach the faith and morals for the common good.

“I have been involved with the Dignitatis Humanae Institute for some years because of its work to support Christians in public life who act with respect for the moral law and, therefore, promote the common good. Some weeks ago, I was named the Honorary President of the Institute. In recent time, the Institute has become more and more identified with the political program of Mr. Bannon. While I have urged the Institute to return to its original purpose, it has not done so, as is evident in its involvement with this latest initiative of Mr. Bannon. I have, therefore, effective immediately, terminated any relationship with the Dignitatis Humanae Institute.”

The Statement is signed:

“Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke

25 June 2019

I have written to Bannon to ask if there was an error in the article, and if so, what that error was, and to comment on the whole situation, but have received no response.

Harnwell did reply almost immediately, within seconds, with what was evidently a prepared statement:

“Hi Bob. I’d be very grateful if you could quote this statement from me in full:

“The respected Catholic news portal LifeSiteNews recently published an inaccurate report with views attributed to Steve Bannon that erroneously claimed to have been approved by him. In recognition of this fact, LifeSiteNews withdrew the article immediately upon request.

“Neither the DHI nor Cardinal Burke were involved in setting up the meeting between Steve Bannon and Dr. Martel in regard to buying the film rights to his book; this was done directly by me in my personal capacity.

“Cardinal Burke has been a principal guiding figure to the DHI, not to mention a good friend, over many years.”

So, there is Harnwell’s statement.

I wrote back asking for more details about the Bannon-Martel meeting, the idea of the film, and so forth, but did not receive a reply.

So we are left with that one underlined sentence: Bannon shared Martel’s diagnosis: “for the sake of the survival of the Church, the Church should consider heterosexual marriage for priests.”

I conclude that what we seem to be in front of us is an effort — one might call it a “full-court press,” of which the Martel book, and the idea of making it into a film are just two parts — to put pressure on the Roman Catholic Church to end the discipline of clerical celibacy.

Cardinal Burke has now taken his distance from that effort, in this dramatic way.

Here is an Associated Press story on these events from this afternoon:

American cardinal severs ties with Bannon-linked group


VATICAN CITY (AP) — A conservative American cardinal distanced himself Tuesday from former White House adviser Steve Bannon and severed ties with a Bannon-linked institute that wants to train future populist leaders in Europe.

Cardinal Raymond Burke said in a statement Tuesday that he was terminating his relationship with the Dignitatis Humanae Institute immediately because “it has become more identified with the political program of Mr. Bannon.” Burke had been its honorary president.

Bannon and the institute launched plans to establish an academy for future populists at a medieval monastery outside Rome. Italy’s government has blocked the project over what it said were unpaid concession fees and a failure to do necessary maintenance.

The final straw for Burke appears to have been a report on the conservative LifeSiteNews website Tuesday that Bannon hinted he was interested in making a film about the Vatican’s gay subculture, based on a book by gay French writer Frederic Martel.

The book, “In the Closet of the Vatican,” was released to great fanfare in February. In it, Martel exposed what he said was a vast community of gay but homophobic priests, monsignors and cardinals at the Holy See.

In his statement, Burke said he disagreed that Martel’s book should be made into a film and also disagreed with many of Bannon’s statements about the doctrine and discipline of the Catholic Church.

News reports have frequently painted Burke as Bannon’s point-person at the Vatican, a claim Burke appeared keen to quash Tuesday. He said he met with Bannon on occasion, as he has with other political leaders, but did so only in his mission as a priest.

“I have never worked with Mr. Bannon in his organization and am not presently doing so,” Burke said.

Bannon has become a fierce critic of Pope Francis, particularly on migration issues. Burke, too, has been critical of Francis; he was one of four cardinals who publicly called on the pope to clarify his opening toward divorced and civilly remarried Catholics.

Francis removed Burke as the head of the Vatican’s supreme court in 2014, and more recently sidelined him as the patron of the Knights of Malta.

Bannon didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment late Tuesday.

Dignitatis Humanae founder Benjamin Harnwell said the LifeSiteNews article quoting Bannon was inaccurate. The article is no longer available online.

Harnwell said he set up a meeting between Bannon and Martel “in regard to buying the film rights to the book” and that neither Burke nor the institute was involved. He said considered Burke a good friend and a guiding figure to the institute.

Dignitatis Humanae, founded in 2008, is a Catholic-inspired think tank that says it seeks to support Christians in public life.

(to be continued)

Where is the Catholic Church going?

Guarding the Flame: The Challenges Facing the Church in the Twenty-First Century: A Conversation With Cardinal Peter Erdő

By Robert Moynihan and Viktoria Somogyi

How will the Church face the challenges of the 21st century? Do the recent advances in modern technology pose a threat to the human soul?

In this wide-ranging, candid conversation, Cardinal Péter Erdő, Archbishop of Budapest, Hungary, one of the most respected cardinals in the Catholic Church, speaks with Dr. Robert Moynihan, founder and editor of Inside the Vatican magazine, about the Catholic Church’s place in an increasingly secularized world.

As the two-time president of the Council of the Episcopal Conferences of Europe, Erdő is the leading bishop of Europe. And as Europe has descended into a deep secularism—more pronounced and rapid even than in the United States—Erdő is uniquely positioned and qualified to identify and tackle the issues that secularism presents.

Here, for the first time in in one place, the cardinal speaks forthrightly about the need to “guard the flame” of the traditional Christian faith in the face of all temptations and obstacles. Guarding the Flame is a courageous call to remain faithful to the faith handed down from the Apostles, whatever the cost.


Cardinal Péter Erdő, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest and Primate of Hungary, was born in Budapest on 25 June 1952, the first of six children. He was created Cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 2003. He has published more 250 articles and 25 books on Canon Law, as well as other spiritual works.

Robert Moynihan (Harvard College, B.A.,1977 and Yale University, Ph.D., 1988) founded Inside the Vatican magazine in 1993. He has covered the Vatican and Church affairs for more than 30 years and is the author of books on Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis.

Viktoria Somogyi, born in Hungary, has lived and worked in Rome at the Hungarian language desk of Vatican Radio. She studied International Relations at the University of Rome.

Guarding the Flame: A Conversation with Cardinal Peter Erdo

A book containing several days of interviews I conducted with Cardinal Peter Erdo of Hungary has just been published by TAN (Thomas A. Nelson) Books, which specializes in the important work of reprinting traditional Catholic works now out of print. To purchase a copy of my new book with Cardinal Erdo, you may do one of three things:

(1) Go to the publisher’s website (link)

(2) Go to the Amazon website and order the book there: (link)

(3) Write back to me by return email, including a complete mailing address and phone number, tell me how many copies you would like, and I will send you one or more signed copies at the cover price of $27.95, plus shipping and handling (about $5 inside the US, but considerably more, up to $26 or more, outside of the US).—RM

Facebook Comments